Aljamain Sterling has done more than enough to earn a title shot.

Sterling (19-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) notched his fifth win in a row when he submitted Cory Sandhagen in just 90 seconds earlier this month at UFC 250. But despite his incredible streak, which also includes wins over the likes of Jimmie Rivera and Pedro Munhoz, Sterling will not be next in line for a shot at gold.

The UFC had already decided that, after Henry Cejudo vacated his belt, Petr Yan will face Jose Aldo for the 135-pound title July 11 at UFC 251. So with the next title fight already booked, Sterling’s head coach, Ray Longo, thinks his star bantamweight contender shouldn’t accept another fight unless it’s for the belt.

“Over here we thought he deserved … this could have been a title fight,” Longo told MMA Junkie on Sterling’s fight with Sandhagen. “You had two really good guys on great winning streaks. Look, technically Aljo might be the uncrowned champ right now. Who the heck knows? But we always believed that he should have been fighting for a title, and if this is what he had to do to get there, to have that one more fight against a guy that’s right up there with him in the division, and that’s what he did.

“He couldn’t have had a better outcome, and now there’s absolutely no question he earned a title shot. … I wouldn’t sign a contract unless it’s for a title. I mean, he earned it. He deserves it, he works hard, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Both Longo and Matt Serra, who have been staples in Sterling’s corner, didn’t make the trip to Las Vegas. After some discussion, the New York natives thought it was best to avoid putting their health at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic in order to protect their families.

So Longo had to nervously watch alone. But thankfully for him, Sterling was able to make quick work of a very worthy and skilled Sandhagen.

“When he put that hook in, I was really, really happy,” Longo said. “Because Aljo on your back, again, I don’t care if you’re 135, 145, 155, 170, you do not want that kid on your back. He’s that good. His MMA jiu-jitsu is off the hook, and that was just a sigh of relief for me.”

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